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Fourth Utah Congressional Seat Still in the Works

Fourth Utah Congressional Seat Still in the Works

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Congress is debating a bill proposal that could give Utah a fourth "at-large" congressional district seat, with its occupant selected through a statewide vote.

The proposal would also give the District of Columbia its first full-voting member of Congress.

In the current bill draft, Utah's fourth seat would be elected under the four-district map Utah lawmakers approved last fall. But federal law would keep the seat "at large" until after the 2010 census. That also leaves Utah's state House districts in place until redistricting around 2012, avoiding the need to hold an election later this year.

"If the desire is to move something, you look for the path with the most bipartisan support and the least controversy," says Rep. Jim Matheson's spokeswoman Alyson Heyrend. "That's the path of least resistance."

Last year a version of the legislation passed that House Government Reform Committee by a wide margin, but it failed to get a needed vote in the Judiciary Committee.

Leaders at the Utah Legislature said they aren't pleased to hear that Congress is again tinkering with the bill, but still hope Utah will eventually get a fourth seat.

"It is very disturbing that Washington feels like it should dictate how a state elects its congressmen," said Utah Senate President John Valentine. "Even with that, I'm anxious to have representation in Washington in the amount that is fair for Utah."

Joe Hunter, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, called the at-large seat a "reasonable option."

"Our position remains that Utah absolutely deserves a fourth seat," Hunter said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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